WINNIPEG – Federal Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau blamed “petty politics” on the part of a school board for the abrupt derailing of one of his media events Thursday.
Reporters and camera operators who had been invited to watch Trudeau speak to students at Sisler High School in Winnipeg were told 20 minutes ahead of time that they would have to leave. The teacher who organized Trudeau’s appearance said word had come down from the Winnipeg School Division that allowing media to be present would make the event seem partisan.
Trudeau was taken aback.
“I have had the pleasure of dropping in to Sisler on just about every single one of my visits to Winnipeg over the past eight years or so,” Trudeau said afterward.
“It’s unfortunate that someone at the board level decided that they needed to play politics and not highlight my visit there, but the conversation with the students was phenomenal.”
There was no response from school division headquarters.
There was a comment about the Trudeau event on a Twitter account in the name of Suzanne Hrynyk, one of the division’s trustees. “Schools should not be used as political conduits for any elected official,” one message read.
Hrynyk’s Twitter profile describes her as a part-time trustee and “proud New Democrat.” She could not be reached for comment.
Other politicians have been allowed to stage events on school grounds. The school division’s website includes photographs of Manitoba NDP Premier Greg Selinger making a funding announcement last month at Queenston School, which is also in the Winnipeg School Division.
Trudeau said he was pleased with his chat with the students, despite the division’s decision.
“It’s a shame that there are people out there still playing petty politics, but I will continue to engage with as many people as openly as I possibly can.”
Later Thursday, Trudeau talked with patrons at a downtown food court. He spent almost an hour milling about and posing for photographs. Other Liberals followed him, asking those who had met Trudeau whether they wanted to become party supporters or provide their email addresses.
When asked whether he was afraid someone might confront him or throw food at him in such a public setting, he laughed.
“Maybe that’s exactly the problem with what’s happened in Ottawa — politicians becoming completely disconnected with people. I … have never shied away from meeting with Canadians, listening to them (and) being open.”